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4 Digital Marketing Trends That Small Businesses should invest in for 2019

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As a marketer, I get it. Our time is precious and it is usually split between various efforts that range from customer acquisition to budget management.

However, I’ll never forget what a coach told me: a business without customers (or clients in my case) isn’t a business. It’s a hobby.

Initially, that was a hard pill to struggle but now serves as inspiration for the moments when I want to become laxed with my marketing efforts.

With that said, I’d like to highlight 4 digital marketing trends that you should keep top of mind as you plan for 2019. Some of these may already be in rotation, but if they aren’t, do your research and decide if it fits your business marketing model.

1) Chatbots

If you are in the retail space, then I recommend that you look into chatbots. Chatbots are similar to instant messaging, which allow you to interact directly with your customers to find out how you can help them.

Many customers actually prefer to interact via chatbot because they are responsive, more personalized and use artificial intelligence to keep track of the buying history (usually via chat archiving).

The majority of my clients already have chatbots installed on their websites and so far, my favorites are Zendesk and Tidio. Be sure to do your research and ensure that integrations are available between your website host and the chatbox.

Examples of businesses who have Chatbots:

AllDemShades

Mel Sharell Paper & Company

Why this matters: With 1.4 billion people interacting with chatbots, 80% of savvy businesses are already using or plan to use chatbots by 2020. Don’t get left behind!

2) Influencer Marketing

Think about the latest product you tried. How did you find out about it? Did you google it or did someone tell you about it? If the answer is the latter, then you can classify that as influencer marketing.

Influencer marketing is a type of word-of-mouth marketing that focuses on using key leaders (i.e. influencers or ambassadors) to drive your brand’s message to the larger market. As such, instead of traditional marketing that may come directly from your business, you instead pay an influencer to promote your product or service for you.

With more than 81% of people using the Internet to make purchases, it’s pretty clear that people are seeking some kind of proof or assurance that your product/service will be of good quality and/or a good experience, which is why we rely on what other people say about it. One of my clients, a travel-based startup, has been able to gain a large influx of customers due to influencer marketing.

Influencers include celebrities, Instagram or YouTube stars, well-known bloggers and journalists. These differ by industry so be sure to do your research before you reach out.

Examples of influencers include:

Tonya Rapley, Creator of My Fab Finance

Lita Lewis, Creator of ThickAthletics Apparel

3) Personalization

In a world full of automation, personalization feels like a taste of magic.

If you want to stand out in 2019, you need to personalize your marketing – and that means personalized content, products, emails and more.

This can be done in a variety of ways, but utilizing your data is key.

With your data, you can segment your subscriber list to send trigger emails which range from empty cart reminders to feedback requests after each purchase.

Personalization can also extend beyond email and into website optimization. For example, if you are running a social-based campaign, create a custom landing page that tells customers more about your offer that was originally promoted on social media. As a bonus, you can create custom tracking codes so you can measure how effective your promotion was.

Example of business who utilizes personalization:

Side Hustle Pro (she’s currently promoting her “Your First 1,000 Downloads” Masterclass)

Why this matters: 96% of marketers (including me!) believe that personalization advances customer relationships. Don’t get left behind!

4) Video Marketing

Video is a versatile and engaging content format that not only gives a real-life picture of what is going on, it’s also easy to share across multiple platforms. Consumers like it because it’s easy to digest, entertaining and engaging, and you, as business owners, should like it because it can give a potentially huge return on investment (ROI) through many channels.

One of my clients has been on the fence about doing Instagram stories weekly, but the numbers don’t lie. When we look at the top posts from the week, our videos receive the most engagement. As such, she has committed to “showing up” once a week.

A few ideas that make for great videos include:

  • How-to’s (great for products)
  • Behind the scenes footage (great for new launches)
  • Q & A sessions (great if you want to offer a new product or service; or make changes to an existing one)
  • Takeovers (great if you are a lifestyle brand – think Essence – and want to build buzz prior to an event)

You may feel pressured to go out and buy a bunch of equipment, but here’s my advice: don’t. Instead, pull out your phone/laptop and start there. Use video marketing to show your authenticity and personality. That’s what consumers are looking for anyway.

Popular video platforms include:

  • Instagram
  • YouTube
  • Facebook

Why this matters: 70% of consumers say that they have shared a brand’s video and 52% of consumers say that watching product videos makes them more confident in online purchase decisions.

What are some of your predicted digital marketing trends for 2019? Comment below!

Campaigns · Content Marketing · Social Media

3 Marketing Tactics To Automate This Holiday Season (and beyond)

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The holiday season is here. For most, this means lots of family time, food and festivities.

It’s an exciting time but can bring forth additional stress if you are also a marketer.

That’s why I believe in the power of automation. By definition, marketing automation allows you to effectively target customers with automated marketing messages across channels including email, website, social media and text messages to generate leads.

Marketing automation is something that I thrive on–and will absolutely need as we take steps deeper into the Holiday season.

Instead of logging tons of hours behind your laptop this month, and missing precious time with your loved ones, I’m going to highlight three things that you should automate this holiday season and beyond.

Let’s jump in!

1. Email Marketing

If you are a business owner with a product or service, it may feel backwards to “sign off” and let your business stop.

That’s where the beauty of automation comes in. Marketing automation will allow you to not only plan your content ahead of time, but you can schedule it. This isn’t just unique to the actual “email” either. You can also pre-build your landing pages (and leave them hidden), segment your audience (so you are only sending relevant content to relevant people) and more.

One of my clients and I were in complete alignment about doing this for her email marketing. Why? Because her list is gold! We garnered a lot of sales during Black Friday but it required a lot of work. This time around, her team and I will be traveling so we hit the pavement hard and scheduled a bunch of her emails.

Now we can relax (a little) until it’s time for the next campaign.

2. Social media

What good is a business without a social presence? It’s doable but almost impossible for a small business owner who wants to grow and further their brand.

Luckily for us, we can take the same approach above and plan ahead. One of my favorite tools to use for scheduling my clients Instagram posts is Planoly.

Planoly has so many benefits. You can:

  1. Schedule content
  2. Organize hashtags by interest
  3. Analyze your content and follower metrics (i.e. top liked and commented posts)
  4. Auto-post (i.e. no extra work for you. Your post will automatically post after you schedule it. They also offer a manual function should you want to review beforehand)

I usually follow a 7 step process that helps me do this efficiently for myself and my clients.

3. Customer support

Are you a customer-facing business? In other words, do you heavily rely on chat functions (like Chatbots, Facebook Messenger or DMs) to answer immediate questions related to your business?

If so, use the common questions you receive and set up prompts! These prompts can either relate to the common keywords people use to submit questions/requests to your business. Or, they can be used to signal when you are available. For example, if someone has questions related to your holiday shipping policy, instead of jumping up at every alert, you can set up an auto-reply that provides them with a link of where to find the information (again, this requires some pre-work but it’s worth it).

This also works for your business email as well. In fact, i’ve already connected with clients and shared the days that I will be working. On the other days, they can expect to receive an auto-reply that lets them know when I will be available. If you receive new business opportunities on the regular (which is a blessing!), be sure to include some language that thanks them for reaching out and ensuring them that they will hear from you soon.

What do you think about marketing automation? Is it something you plan to implement?

Advertising · Blogging · Campaigns · Content Marketing · E-Commerce · Marketing · Public Relations · Social Media · Uncategorized

Why You Should Consider Twitter Polls

When is the last time you’ve proudly been ahead of a trend? For me, it happened today!

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How to use Twitter Polls

If you aren’t aware, Twitter recently introduced the idea of a Twitter poll, which is basically a way for individuals and companies to collect the opinions of their followers anonymously (meaning, if you participate, your personal identifiable information (PII) remains anonymous).

I just want to reiterate that, for security reasons, all votes are private. You won’t see any PII but the poll data will continue to be public via Twitter until the poll is removed by you. Each poll can be live from 24 hours to 7 days and votes can only occur during that time. The only thing that will show are the percentages of each answer (I.e. 79% of voters like answer A and 21% like answer B). For example, if someone participates in a poll, you won’t see their Twitter name or anything associated with it. It’s completely anonymous.

The Twitter topics can vary from award nominations to potential pet names. In fact, I’ve been able to gain traction for my company as well as our clients – which means, it works for businesses, too!

Before I recommended this to my client, I decided to do a few test trials from my company’s Twitter account. Here’s a screenshot of one of our polls:

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Learn how to use Twitter Polls for your business.

Being that I also manage our social media strategy, I figured this would be a great opportunity to help set a content strategy. Needless to say, it not only helped me but it also helped others!

drum roll please

Our Twitter poll was featured on Twitter’s Business blog! Read the full article here.

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How to use Twitter polls for Business.

Have you participated in or created a Twitter poll? What best practices have you created?

Advertising · Blogging · Content Marketing · Digital · E-Commerce · Entrepreneurs · Marketing

11 Ways to Optimize LinkedIn for Business

Did you know that LinkedIn currently has more than 4 million businesses on its platform? That’s right – 4 million! More and more businesses are quickly gravitating to this professional networking platform. Why? Well, for starters, more than 380 million professionals are on it. That’s a whole lot of potential partners, customers, and buyers to whom you can promote your business.

Are you excited? Great! Are you unsure of where to start? Don’t worry – that’s why I’m here. I recently attended a webinar presented by Dave Kerpen of Likeable Local and he discussed 11 Ways to Optimize LinkedIn for your Business.

Let’s jump in!

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How to Optimize Your LinkedIn For Business

 

1. Customize Your Profile. Personal branding boosts your business. You can do this many ways, but some include:

  • Making a custom URL
  • Hyperlinking to your company page
  • Adding a professional profile picture and background photo.

Additionally, make sure that you incorporate Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in your profile. This includes obtaining a list of keywords that prospects or clients would enter into LinkedIn or any other search engine. For example, my personal LinkedIn page mentions the keyword Marketing 14 times in the summary portion alone.  As a result, I was able to land my current position at Bixal!

Be sure to also include examples of your work – including presentations, art/graphics, videos, important links etc.

2. Publish Blog Posts. This is a great way to promote your brand. Start by thinking of a great headline before drafting the post. Some other tips include: finding/taking a compelling photo, closing a post with a strong call-to-action (this encourages comments), and sharing the post across all of your social channels.

Also, as you begin writing, keep word count in mind. A standard article has about 400-600 words. Be concise!

Lastly, drive your readers to a landing page on your website to learn more about you or your business. This strategy has worked really well for me. For example, this 600-word blog post on my personal site, once promoted on my social media accounts, earned me 15 new followers!

3. Share Updates: Personally and as a Business. 93% of Business-to-Business (B2B) marketers rate LinkedIn as a top B2B social media lead-generation source. It’s recommended that you update your status daily – at least once. Dave Kerpen of Likeable Local mentioned that the best times to post are weekdays between 7:00am-8:00am and 5:00 pm-6:00pm.

If you need ideas on what to post, consider photos, e-books, articles, videos, and any other content related to your industry and company.

4. Leverage LinkedIn Listening. Start by searching for keywords related to your company and read about what other people are saying.

5. Create LinkedIn Groups. Don’t just create one for your business. Create one that showcases your thought leadership. Make a group based on your expert area and post relevant content. Don’t forget to engage with members and link them to your company’s LinkedIn page and website.

6. Discover and Connect with Influencers. Follow the top influencers in your industry and listen to what they discuss. Engage with them by commenting on their posts and sharing their published content. When you feel comfortable, try messaging them and asking for a connection (make sure it’s an opportunity for both parties involved).

7. Recruit Amazing Talent. LinkedIn has made it easier for Recruiters, Small Business Owners and more to find amazing talent.  Search by your connections, location, industry and past companies. You can also utilize LinkedIn Premium to find new talent.

8. Advertise Strategically. LinkedIn ads are a great way to gain exposure. Know that you have the power to control associated costs. Be sure to target strategically with specific criteria: industry, job title, seniority, age, gender, location, skills, and group affiliation.

9. Create a Showcase Page. This serves as an extension of your company page. Use a Showcase Page to highlight certain products/services and share work examples.

10. Integrate Twitter and SlideShare. Increase your reach with integration. If you have presentations, you can share them directly to Linkedin from SlideShare. Also, you can add your Twitter profile to your LinkedIn in the edit profile section.

11. Connect Your Network. Plain and simple! Introduce people in your network to each other with the goal of building a community.

What are some other ways that you’ve optimized your LinkedIn profile? Comment below!

Advertising · Branding · Campaigns · Content Marketing · Digital · E-Commerce · Entrepreneurs · Marketing · Social Media · Strategy

Three Tips for Effectively A/B Testing your Emails

In a world where everything has become “social”, email has proven to continue to be a valuable asset in the world of online communications. In fact, according to the Radicati Group, the number of worldwide email accounts is projected to grow from over 4.1 billion accounts in 2014 to over 5.2 billion accounts by the end of 2018. That’s almost 27% in growth.

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With the huge opportunity to truly capture new subscribers, companies are spending more and more dollars on testing – specifically A/B testing.

Campaign Monitor defines A/B testing (also known as split testing) as:

 A way of working out which of two campaign options is the most effective in terms of encouraging opens or clicks.

In an A/B test, you set up two variations of the one campaign and send them to a small percentage of your total recipients. Half of the test group is sent Version A and the other half gets Version B. The result, measured by the most opens or clicks, determines the winning campaign and that version is sent to the remaining subscribers.

It’s imperative to run A/B tests when trying out new techniques or formats for your email campaigns. The result is the improvement of open, click through and conversion rates, which will funnel down to other marketing efforts and ultimately, if sales-related, profit for the company. Now that you understand the importance of testing, let’s break down exactly what you want to test – as everything cannot be tested together. It’s important to only test one thing at a time to get accurate results.

  1. Timing

The time that you decide to send an email is very important. Some believe the hours between 8:00 pm – 12:00 am are best. Others believe mid-day is best. Truthfully, ideal times will vary by your subscriber list, industry and/or the content/offer. Try a variety of times to determine which works best and go from there. Some email databases offer paid scheduling testing services, such as Mail Chimps’ Send Time Optimization, which handles the work for you by 1) requesting a sample list (dividing it in half – hence the phrase A/B testing) 2) determining the best sending time for its subscribers and 3) distributing based on the most favorable time.

  1. Call to Action and Subject Line

When it comes to testing your offer, there is no clear-cut plan. Different subscribers respond to different offers. The key is dynamic offers – i.e. targeted e-mail offers that are customized for each individual subscriber based on the information you’ve collected on them. A few examples include:

  • Seasonal Offers (e.g. Holidays, Back to School deals)
  • Free Option Offer (e.g. Shipping, BOGO, upgrades, downloads)

Percentages and specific dollar amounts (e.g. 5% off, $20 off)

  • Reminder/Time Sensitive Offers (e.g. Last chance to buy and/or earn, 5 slots left)
  • Exclusive/Membership Based offers (e.g. New items in store, restocked requests, private shopping events)
  1. The Layout

The layout of your email may seem like a trivial thing to consider but as the world becomes more mobile, it is imperative to ensure that click through rates and open rates remain high. A few popular things to test are:

  • Body text (Single column vs. double column; font size and type)
  • Images vs. Videos (and whether or not to integrate at all)
  • Personalization (Jane vs. Mrs. Doe)
  • HTML text (Keywords vs. brand language)
  • Placement of the offer (and the repetition of the offer)

Testing can be seen as a long, thorough process but when done right, and often, can yield positive results for your business.

What are some of your best practices for testing emails – specifically related to A/B testing? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Different Ways Brands Use Pinterest to Authentically Connect

Although it is still fairly new, plenty of companies have delved and completely excelled in the new social media channel of Pinterest. The online visual board has been predicted to grow measurably in the next few years. As such, brands all over the world are looking for ways to authentically connect with it’s current and potential consumers on the site.

As with any other social media channel, a well-thought out strategy is needed to excel. To assist you with this, I came across an article that details 5 ways a few brands have used Pinterest to authentically connect with fans.

Feel free to check it out here.

What tips and strategies have you implemented that have been successful on Pinterest?